GO, one of Malta’s largest telecoms companies, used to offer free data to users who made use of ‘GO Music WildCard’, ‘GO TV Anywhere’ and ‘GO TV Anywhere Lite’. However, such subscribers have recently been receiving a text message from GO notifying them that this free internet offer will terminate from the 1st of October.
This action has been forced upon GO by the Malta Communications Authority (MCA) following three landmark judgements decided by the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
The ECJ reasoned that if an internet access provider applies a zero tariff, or a tariff that is more attractive, this would be harmful to the competition in the market. This is because such commercial practice would be in breach of article 3(3) of Regulation 2015/2120. This provision dictates that internet access providers shall treat all traffic equally when providing internet access services, without discrimination, restriction or interference.
The ECJ in one of these landmark judgements stated the following,
“a ‘zero tariff’ option is a commercial practice whereby an internet access provider applies a ‘zero tariff’, or a tariff that is more advantageous, to all or part of the data traffic associated with an application or category of specific applications, offered by partners of that access provider. Those data are therefore not counted towards the data volume purchased as part of the basic package. Such an option, offered in the context of limited packages, thus allows internet access providers to increase the attractiveness of their offer.”
In June 2022 the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) published an update to its Guidelines, which interpret the previously mentioned ECJ judgements.
Significantly, these guidelines identify those instances where zero-tariff options are applied to specific traffic streams and are therefore incompatible with Regulation 2015/2120. The scheme offered by GO was flagged as being incompatible. As a result of this, normal data rates will apply from the 1st of October.
The telecoms company have agreed to notify all impacted users by the 30th of September of 2022.